Bearcats take three AAC awards

University of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, along with seniors Justin Jackson and Sean Kilpatrick

University of Cincinnati seniors Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, as well as head coach Mick Cronin received honors from the American Athletic Conference Wednesday prior to the kickoff of the league’s league tournament in Memphis.

Kilpatrick was named Sportsman of the Year, while Jackson was named Defensive Player of the Year and Cronin the Coach of the Year in voting done by the 10 league coaches. Kilpatrick was one of three leading candidates for the conference Player of the Year award that went to Connecticut senior guard Shabazz Napier. Kilpatrick, Napier and Louisville senior guard Russ Smith were unanimous picks to the first team all-conference squad named Tuesday.

Kilpatrick led the league in scoring and 3-point shots made but with the three players so closely linked in many categories, this could be seen as a way to honor as many of them as possible. The Sportsman of the Year honors a player not just for the stats but how they carry themselves on and off the court.

Jackson led the American in blocked shots and was fifth in rebounding and steals. His 89 blocked shots this season are the fifth-most in school history. Jackson had at least one steal in 16 of 18 conference games and in all 24 of UC’s 31 games overall.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

Cronin has led UC to three straight NCAA tournament appearances, a streak that is expected to increase to four when this year’s brackets are announced on Sunday night. UC was picked to finish fourth in the preseason coaches’ poll but have gone 26-5 overall and 15-3 in the league. That included a 15-game winning streak in the middle of the season. The Bearcats are ranked No. 12 nationally in this week’s coaches’ poll.

The Bearcats shared the regular season title with Louisville but will be the No. 1 seed in the league tournament after winning a coin flip with the Cardinals. They will face the winner of tonight’s Central Florida-Temple game Thursday at 7 p.m. in their first tournament game. If they win their opener, they would advance to play the winner of the UConn-Memphis game in the semifinals on Friday.